In Nicky Silver’s new play at the Vineyard Theater, “This Day Forward,” we’re back again in Silverland — a gay man who has trouble with relationships must deal with his selfish, acerbic mother, who regrets her unhappy marriage and resents her children. Similar characters have appeared frequently in Silver’s work, most notably in “The Lyons,” starring Linda Lavin, a black comedy that was both hilarious and pointed, the only one of Silver’s plays to transfer to Broadway. If “This Day Forward” is not as strong, the playwright once more creates a play that deftly mixes funny and dark.
Click on any photograph by Carol Rosegg to see it enlarged.
It is 1958 when the play begins in an elegant honeymoon suite of the St. Regis Hotel, on the day of the wedding between Martin (Michael Crane) and Irene (Holley Fain.) While Martin is eager to engage in their first lovemaking, Irene is intent on revealing something to her new husband that she fears will make him “very,very angry.”
“Irene, listen to me,” Martin replies. “I’m your husband and I love you. You can tell me anything. I’m your safe place.”
So, she tells him: “I don’t love you.”
We eventually learn that she’s in love with a car mechanic named Emil (Joe Tippett), with whom she had sex just that morning.
All of this is drawn out and played for laughs, and feels like one of those sex farces from the era, which dissolve into what used to be called comic mayhem. I suppose it’s too literal-minded of me to wonder why Irene waited until immediately after they were married to tell Martin that she didn’t love him. Little fake moments like that help make most of “This Day Forward” either silly and sitcomish or surreal and absurdist (depending on how much cachet you wish to give the playwright.)
A Polish hotel maid (June Gable) and her bellhop son (Andrew Burnap) help Irene decide which of the two men to choose to spend her life with, and what criteria she should use – attractiveness, money, sex?
The second act skips ahead a half century, with a new cast of characters (played by the same actors.) Noah (Crane) and his sister Sheila (Francesa Faridany), are in Noah’s hip downtown loft (kudos to set designer Allen Moyer.) They have to figure out what to do about their mother Irene (now played by June Gable), who has mentally deteriorated after the death of her husband, even though their marriage was an unhappy one. Also in the loft is Leo (Burnap), who has been in a relationship with Noah for a year, although Noah seems to take him for granted.
Silver has a talent for comic dialogue that carries us through even an aimless-seeming play like this one. But then, at the very end, it suddenly, subtly, quietly becomes clear — it’d be easy to miss – that “This Day Forward” has something to say about love and commitment.
This Day Forward
Written by Nicky Silver
Directed by Mark Brokaw
Scenic design by Allen Moyer, costumes by Kaye Voyce, lighting by David Lander, original music and sound design by David Van Tieghem
Cast: Andrew Burnap, Michael Crane, Holley Fain,
Francesca Faridany, June Gable, Joe Tippett
Running time: 2 hours, including intermission
Tickets: $79 to $100
This Day Forward is scheduled to run though December 18, 2016